Nuclear Disaster in Japan

by Annie Hendrick

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Everyone has heard about the recent troubles in Japan, but many do not know to what extent the aftermath has affected many people across the world. Rebuilding Japan is certainly important, but it is being pushed onto the backburner while more important problems are coming to the forefront. The nuclear disaster and meltdown in Fukushima is posing a bigger problem by each passing day.

On March 11th, an earthquake recorded at  8.9 (out of 10) on the Richter scale hit Japan. It is considered to be the worst earthquake that has hit Japan in over 100 years. A series of aftershocks created the tsunami that proceeded to hit the country’s eastern coast only minutes later.  The combination of the earthquake and tsunami destroyed Japan and the lives of many – but a pressing event resulting from the disaster is the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Power plant.

A satellite photograph of the nuclear disaster

The earthquake and tsunami that hit the eastern coast caused the Fukushima plant to shut down, therefore halting its cooling system.  This is highly dangerous in a nuclear setting. Without the cooling systems, there is risk of nuclear meltdown and release of harmful radiation into the atmosphere.

Over 90 hours after these events, workers learned that the radiation at the facility had reached a hazardous level. Evacuation was ordered within a 12-mile radius of the plant. More recent events are now calling for evacuation within a 50-mile radius. The public has been urged not to panic because there are very small amounts of radiation circulating in the air. The main concern is the contamination of water and food.

Japan seems relatively unprepared for a disaster of this proportion – no one could have foreseen something this catastrophic.  Workers and citizens lack the training and practice to control the aftermath of a natural disaster of this magnitude, especially a nuclear meltdown.

The “Fukushima Fifty” is the name for the group of Japanese workers battling the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. These workers are giving their lives for their country to secure this nuclear plant. Three were reported to have radiation burns to their legs from wading through contaminated water at the plants.  Five are believed to have died and 15 others are injured.  Some of these workers have said that they know the radiation will kill them.

Smoke from the plant

Many people are not very concerned with the events in Japan because it is not directly affecting us in the U.S.; however it is a serious disaster. The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami disasters has reached 9,700. Up to 16,500 people are missing. Japan is struggling to import enough bottled water because of the radiation contamination.

Many foundations are donating to relief efforts.   By simply searching online for “relief efforts for Japan” many links will pop up from many different organizations that you can donate to. Many schools are also participating in fundraisers and collections to help the cause. Close to $150 million had been donated from the U.S. since the March 11th tragedy.

Japan is struggling to maintain control over the situation, and the U.S. government is doing all it can to help.  It is sending robots and trained staff to operate them to Japan to help regain control of the plant. They are equipped with electronics built to withstand radiation, and to work in areas where radiation levels would harm or even kill a person.

However,  you can help too. Although Japan seems and is quite literally on the other side of the world, you can make a difference and contribute to the recovery and restoration of their country.

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